China denies offer of ‘vaccine diplomacy’ deal to Paraguay | Vaccines and immunisation

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Paraguay said its government had been approached by unofficial brokers claiming to offer access to Chinese-manufactured batches of Covid-19 vaccine in return for cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan, although Beijing has denounced the claim as “malicious disinformation”.

So-called vaccine diplomacy has flourished as many countries crippled by the pandemic are struggling to source supplies to protect their populations. Russian-made doses have already formed part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Syria.

The deals offered in Paraguay appear to represent one of the most heavy-handed attempts to weaponise protection against Covid-19 since the first batches of vaccine began rolling off production lines.

The “intermediaries and other private figures” trying to broker the deal “had no official status, and their legitimacy or links with the government of the People’s Republic of China has not been proved”, the Paraguayan foreign ministry said in a statement.

But it denounced the brokers for offering “improper conditions” and warned that “the distressing humanitarian situation caused by the pandemic should not be used … to pursue a political or economic aim”.

Foreign minister Euclides Acevedo said he would not allow any legal or political conditions on any vaccine deals his government makes. “We are not going to accept them saying to us ‘we will sell you the vaccines, but break your ties with Taiwan’,” local website Hoy reported him as saying.

There have been over 200,000 cases of Covid-19 in Paraguay. Shortages of medicines and intensive care beds, and the slow arrival of vaccines, have sparked street protests and an attempt to impeach the country’s president, Mario Abdo Benítez.

Taiwan last week stepped in with an offer to help Paraguay buy vaccines, and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, urged the two governments to work together to handle the pandemic. The US has previously expressed concern at Beijing’s efforts to win over Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies.

Taiwan only has official ties with 15 countries, mostly poorer states in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Although the island is a self-ruling democracy, Beijing claims it should be under its control and its “one China policy” requires allies to choose between formal links with its government or Taipei.

After the news from Paraguay broke, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said funds offered to buy Covid-19 vaccines could not be used to pay for doses developed or manufactured in China.

“One of the conditions is that Chinese vaccines cannot be bought. Or, if you buy Chinese vaccines, then you cannot use our Taiwanese money,” he told parliament. He added that he had confidence in the strength of Taiwanese ties with Paraguay, Reuters reported.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said the reports of a vaccines-for-diplomatic-recognition offer were part of a disinformation campaign originating in Taiwan. “We urge those in Taiwan to stop political manipulation or slander in any form, as all these attempts are doomed to fail,” she told a regular press conference in Beijing.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: China denies offer of ‘vaccine diplomacy’ deal to Paraguay | Vaccines and immunisation

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